About - Mission

Youth OUTright empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning youth to be confident and vital members of our community in which youth of all gender and sexual identities can live in safe and inclusive environments.

As a youth advocacy and leadership organization, we provide affirmation, information, support and resources for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth of ages 14-23 in 18 counties in Western North Carolina. Based on 2010 U.S. Census figures, it is estimated that there could be more than 4,000 LGBTQ youth in our 18-county region.

We believe that no youth – regardless of their sexual identity, gender expression or gender identification – should be bullied, harassed or discriminated against because of who they are or are perceived to be. Our work is centered around one overarching goal–providing LGBTQ youth opportunities to develop self confidence, compassion, and a passion for community stewardship.

Youth OUTright WNC, Inc. is a 501(c) 3 organization.



  • 2006

    A group of gay and lesbian Asheville citizens began discussing the gap in programs and services for LGBTQ youth, an at-risk population often targeted for bullying and hate crimes, in WNC. Youth OUTright WNC, Inc. (YO) incorporated with the State of North Carolina, established by-laws, and created its first board of directors. The organization’s first public event held an information table at Asheville’s Blue Ridge Pride Festival.
  • 2008

    The organization became a program of PFLAG Asheville (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and began providing services and initiated fundraising activities. YO held its first facilitator training program, which was conducted by representatives from Time Out Youth, a Charlotte based LGBTQ. High schools in WNC received literature announcing upcoming Friday meetings. YO held its first reception to introduce the organization, establish its mission, and to ask for volunteers.
  • 2009

    YO’s first youth group met January 30 at Jefferson House, a space donated by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville, Four youth attended. In June, Youth OUTright WNC, Inc. was designated a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization by the IRS. Two hundred and five youth attended meetings in 2009.
  • 2010

    YO’s First Anniversary Party for youth, held at Firestorm Café and Books, included live entertainment, Thirty-five youth attended the Alt Prom, a socially inclusive event for youth, was held at Phil Mechanic Studios. Youth group meetings moved to First Congregational United Church of Christ in downtown Asheville on Sunday afternoons. In response to recent youth suicides, YO expanded its programming. Three hundred and twenty six youth visits were documented in 2010.
  • 2011

    YO’s first fundraising event, held at the historic Manor Inn, featured the premiere of the documentary Campaign 8, which depicted the personal experiences of YO youth and was produced and directed by Robert Gaston. One hundred and thirty people attended. In September, YO contracted its first part-time executive director. Cumulative youth meeting visits reached 816.
  • 2012

    At the Renaissance Asheville Hotel, YO premiered A Million Reasons featuring interviews with a cross-section of multigenerational Asheville citizens regarding their personal experiences with LGBTQ issues. The first newsletter was produced and the website was revised to include active links to local, regional and national resources benefiting LGBTQ youth, their parents, and allies. Average attendance at weekly youth meetings increased by 60% with total visits exceeding 1,300. YO’s first youth impact survey revealed that 70% of youth reported increased self-confidence and a sense of belonging and community as a direct result of their participation in YO.
  • 2013

    Unique youth reached by YO increased by 40%. Cumulative visits exceeded 2,000 and average weekly attendance increased more than 50% in part due to the organization hiring its first part-time youth programs coordinator. YO Prom: Embrace, Encourage, Empower attracted 80 youth from seven WNC counties. Safe Space, a pro bono collaboration with A Visual Link Films, demonstrated the impact YO had on its youth participants, premiered at THE DANCE. YO developed Working with LGBTQ Youth, a seminar for professionals who work with youth .
  • 2014

    Youth Outright premiered Young Voices, an annual fundraising event featuring performances for local LGBTQA youth. The first annual event saw record attendance for a YO event. By years’ end, YO had served # youth through Sunday meetings and special events.
  • 2015

    YO collaborated with UNCA to create an original mainstage theater work Qtopia. The production featured several YO youth participants.

Board Of Directors

  • Our Board

    Our Board of Directors is made up of a wide variety of people from business, education, social services, and other professionals from the community as well as at least one youth member. This diverse group shares a strong common belief in the mission of our organization.

    Youth OUTright, WNC’s LGBTQ youth advocacy organization, is currently seeking new members for our Board of Directors. Board members ensure that YO works toward creating a safe and affirming environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth by leading key committees, developing community partnerships, guiding the direction of YO’s efforts, and participating in fundraising campaigns. Please contact us for more information.

  • Anneliese Schombs-Fish, Chair

    Anneliese Schombs-Fish, Chair

    Anneliese Fish was raised in Florida and moved to Asheville in 1994. She is a wife and mother of three who has chosen a career in banking. Throughout her life she has had a strong personal calling to be involved in the movement towards equal rights for the LGBTQ community. Working on the board with Youth OUTright has been an answer to her heart’s calling. She feels that to make a positive difference in even one life is to leave an indelible footprint on the march toward equality for all citizens
  • Brenda Clark, Vice Chair

    Brenda Clark, Vice Chair

    Strategic planning and continuous improvement of systems has been the focus of Brenda Clark’s work for the second half of her career. She served as a teacher, principal, and Associate Superintendent before going into consulting where she has worked with school districts across the United States and Europe in developing and maintaining strategic initiatives based on organizational improvement. Her book, Running All the Red Lights, has been used in multiple school districts as a guide for systemic change. She has called Asheville home since 2003 and has volunteered in several community initiatives such as the Campaign for Southern Equality, Voter Rights, PRIDE, and Elder services. She and her spouse, Carol, were the first couple in North Carolina to have their application for a marriage license accepted by the Register of Deeds. “Growing up in south Georgia as a closeted lesbian was extremely difficult in the 50’s and 60’s. I left Georgia to seek a more comfortable environment only to learn it wasn’t about Georgia but rather about the perception of others relative to all LGBT people. Youth Outright is the organization that could have helped me and countless other young Americans as we struggled with our identity. I am proud to be part of an organization that supports LGBT youth in the greater Asheville area. The organization has given me far more than I could ever return.”
  • Phil Weast, Treasurer

    After forty-one years working in student development at universities and colleges in three states, Phil retired in January 2015. A defining passion in Phil’s life has been working with young people, helping them find themselves, and imagining a successful future. He created student leadership development programs at two major universities. Throughout his adult and professional life, Phil has been committed to community service and involvement with an especially long record of involvement with nonprofits as a board member and/or officer (e.g., Crisis Call Line, YMCA, United Way, Habitat for Humanity, Western Carolinians for Criminal Justice, and Asheville Arts Council). He has substantial experience as a nonprofit consultant and has worked with a range of organizations on board and policy development and strategic planning. Phil lives in Asheville with Bramlett, his partner for over thirty-five years. A volunteer with Youth OUTright for several years, Phil notes: “For me, YO provides the perfect opportunity to continue working with and empowering young people. It is a privilege and honor to be involved with a group offering opportunities and programs for LGBT and queer identified youth my generation rarely experienced.”
  • Heather Laine Talley, Secretary

    Heather Laine Talley, Secretary

    Heather Laine Talley is a sociologist, writer, and consultant who has lived in Asheville, North Carolina off and on since 1998. Her interest in queer youth empowerment emerged through her experience student organizing via UNCA OUT! Since that time, she has worked as a community organizer and youth advocate for a range of organizations including Act Like a Grrrl and the Midatlantic Burn Camp. As an Associate Editor at The Feminist Wire, she works to make space for critical voices that challenge racism, sexism, queerphobia, and classism and to engage in transformative dialogues. Her book Saving Face: Disfigurement and the Politics of Appearance was recently published by New York University Press. Heather and her partner Lee are Crossfitters, avid hikers, and pretty good dinner party hosts. “What inspires me most about Youth OUTright is what happens when LGBTQ youth experience affirming community that celebrates who they are. The experience is nothing short of transformative. Youth are personally changed, but what is truly magical is to see young folks use the insight and passion of their own journeys to impact the lives of other youth and their communities.”
  • Carlos Vargas

    Carlos Vargas is a full time workaholic. When he’s not working he can be found hiking at Bent Creek with his dachshund, or at home making meals from scratch. He began attending Youth OUTright in the summer of 2009 and shortly thereafter became a board member. His strong desire to help fellow youth like himself lead him to create the organization’s first prom. He brings a unique perspective to the board identifying as an undocumented queer person. “Youth OUTright has helped me to better understand myself and my goals by giving me opportunities to grow with the organization.”
  • Braden Harvey

    Braden has been raised in Asheville for a majority of his life and is currently a senior at Buncombe County Early College, with hopes to graduate next year with a High School Diploma and an Associates Degree in Arts. Braden has been involved with Youth OUTright since middle school and hopes to help empower other youth to embrace and celebrate who they are. When not serving as a Youth Representative on the board, working in retail or doing homework, Braden enjoys exploring downtown Asheville with friends and spending time with his family. “YouthOUTright gave me a space unlike any I’ve had before. Coming in at a fresh age of fourteen, I had no idea what I had gotten myself into and no idea what impact it would have on my life. I’m the person I am today because of Youth OUTright and after two years of never missing a Youth meeting, I have met so many beautiful people and made lifelong friends. I hope to take on more leadership roles and inspire youth that may be in the spot I was years ago.”
  • Lise Kloeppel

    Lise Kloeppel

    A resident of the Asheville area since 2008, Lise Kloeppel is a mother, artist, educator, and organizer who works as an Associate Professor of Drama and the Faculty Director of the Key Center for Service-Learning and Community Citizenship at UNC Asheville. Using arts and culture as a pedagogical and political tool, she strives to activate individuals and communities to develop authentic relationships across difference, engage in meaningful civic dialogue, and imagine and enact more conscious and compassionate ways of living in the world. She integrates her teaching, scholarship/creative activity, and service to co-create real-world learning experiences. One of her current projects is the Queer Youth Theatre Project, a community-based, devised theatre project in collaboration with YO. She teaches courses in community cultural development, acting, theatre education, and theatre for social change. “I continue to be inspired by the YO youth who resist the ‘victim’ label and live each day with a kind of authenticity that many adults yearn to replicate. To me, the heart and soul of YO’s work is to instill in our youth an ever-abundant sense of self-worth and self-efficacy. By investing in the often-times most vulnerable and marginalized young people, we uplift our entire community to be and do better.”
  • Jason J. Jones

    Jason J. Jones (Member-at-Large) and his now husband Joshua moved to Asheville, NC from Austin, TX in December of 2010. Originally from Waco, TX he attended the University of Texas at Austin and then Baylor University completing a Masters in International Management. It was at Baylor that he met Joshua, and they have been happily together for 15 years and were married in November of 2014 following the legalization of same-sex marriage in NC. They are thrilled that their marriage will now be recognized in their home state as well. It was through a corporate giving program that Jason first became involved with Youth OUTright. He feels honored to be on the Board and to help continue Youth OUTright’s work in WNC.
  • William Stanhope

    William Stanhope

    Retired from NC Public Schools (French) and Delta Airlines (French Translator), William has been an Asheville resident since 1988. He previously lived and worked extensively overseas in Australia and Algeria where he started and co-directed Ain Smara International School (Constantine) for the Ingersol Rand Corporation alongside his partner, Jane. An enthusiastic lover of nature and hiking, he walked 500 miles on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. He loves spending time at his self built mountain retreat in Sandy Mush, chopping wood and gardening. He has two grown children, Claire and Christopher.”As an educator I saw first hand the destructive effects of isolation and aggression toward LGBTQ youth. Youth OutRight is on the front line fighting to bring dignity and acceptance to youth who often have few allies. I am honored to bring my background and experience in education to Youth Outright and to support LGBTQ youth in Western NC.”
  • Alynn Woodson

    Alynn Woodson

    Alynn Woodson is a trainer, program manager and consultant who has worked in the nonprofit sector for more than 15 years. After working with youth programs and volunteer engagement at Habitat for Humanity International for 10 years, Alynn decided to join the Peace Corps in 2010. Alynn served as a PCV in Niger and Burkina Faso where she had the opportunity to work closely with village schools, health clinics, and municipalities. The experience strengthened Alynn’s dedication to ensuring educational and personal equity around the globe. “I work with Youth Outright for many reasons, but on the top of that list is the firm belief that all people deserve to live their lives without fear, being accepted for who they are, and loving whomever they wish. Everyone needs a safe space — a place to be 100% themselves — a place where they are encouraged to follow their dreams. In my opinion, YO does everything they can to create that space for WNC’s LGBT youth.”
  • Preston Keith

    Preston Keith

    A new resident of Asheville, NC, Preston Keith serves as the Assistant Director of Multicultural Student Programs at the University of North Carolina Asheville. Preston has spent the last four years at the University of Iowa serving as the manager of its LGBT Resource Center and as the LGBTQ Multicultural Specialist. Preston has a passion for creating equitable and inclusive spaces for LGBTQ youth as well as students in higher education. A strong proponent of community activism and social justice education, Preston believes that we all posses the power to make a difference in this world. In his free time, Preston enjoys reading, writing, and hiking. “I joined Youth Outright because I am committed to creating safe spaces for people to live their most authentic lives. For the youth who are touched by Youth Outright, this is that safe space.”
  • Jen Harris

    Jen Harris

    A resident of Asheville since 1999, Jen is a Composition & Rhetoric instructor at Western Carolina University. As an instructor, her focus on examining the link between language and reality allows students to examine how we use language to shape our reality, our understanding of others, and our self-perceptions. By revealing these links, students develop a greater understanding of how human interaction, inclusion, and marginalization work to map our world. A wife, mother, and avid homebody, Jen often spends her time reading, cooking, and working in the yard. “I am honored to be a part of an organization dedicated to the support and advancement of LGBTQ youth. While there have been recent gains in civil rights, a foot in the door is not a body in the room; our work must begin with support for those who are most vulnerable among us.”
  • Jasmin Martinez

    Jasmin Martinez

    Jasmin has been a resident of Asheville for almost 3 years. She works as a supervisor for the Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services and is completing a Master of Science in Criminal Justice. Her past career endeavors include working in women’s corrections, where she developed a deep understanding for basic human rights and a universal need for compassion. Jasmin lives with her partner, Kirsten, and their two dogs in West Asheville. She is a member of Women’s Ultimate Frisbee and plays the drums in a local band. “Youth OUTright inspires me because it gives the youth a place to feel at home! When I look back on my young life, I think about how helpful it would have been to have a great community like YO that I could depend on through all of the good and bad times.”

Youth OUTright, WNC’s LGBTQ youth advocacy organization, is currently seeking new members for our Board of Directors. Board members ensure that YO works toward creating a safe and affirming environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. Board members do this by leading key committees, developing community partnerships,












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